Be the Best You Can Be: "A HARD DAYS NIGHT"- What Does Your Work Do For You?
Posted Aug 23 2008 10:43pm
“It’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been working like a dog”. The Beetles (1964) - John Lennon.
What better way to illustrate the stressful nature of being over-worked, than these John Lennon lyrics from 1964? Everything we do in life either nourishes or depletes us, and with the amount of precious time we spend working, this aspect of our lives is of crucial importance. Americans spend on average 8 to 10 hours a day at work and in many sectors of the economy this number is on the rise. Even when we are lucky enough to have work we enjoy, we are often over-worked and our lives become unbalanced.
Things can get worse if your job is opposed to your values, doesn’t stimulate you or simply doesn’t interest you. I believe that there is a link between the increase in the number of hours given to working and the increase in our waistlines and our health and emotional problems. If we’re not getting fulfillment, meaning and joy at the workplace, then we are likely to turn to other things to fill the gap. This can lead to an over dependence on comfort food, but it can just as likely be alcohol, medication, distorted relationships or distractions like the TV or the Internet.
So, getting back to that “Hard Day’s Night”: In the song, the poor man’s only nourishment is provided by his woman. This is clearly not a balanced existence. It’s easy to imagine them both to be better off if he could work less, or even if he simply enjoyed his job more! Our bio-individuality means that our boats are floated in many different ways, and work means many different things to different people. For example, to many of us the business of just making money is a very limited view. To others it’s the whole point! In Hard Day’s Night the reason for it all is “to get you money to buy your things”. For some, jobs where we can help make the world a better place, or satisfy our creative impulse is just the ticket.
We often use distractions or misplaced emotions to alleviate our cry for help for genuine fulfillment, and this can lead to places that make things even worse, like addiction, isolation, and of course all the perils that accompany weigh gain – low self-esteem, diabetes, heart problems, cancer and stroke. Such an existence is, at best miserable and at worst, dangerous.
This brings to mind the expression, “our bodies hold great wisdom”, but what does this really mean?
While our brains can be the masters of denial, our bodies never lie. They have a way of telling us that things are going awry, often long before we get the message. Many chronic conditions can be indicators that the body wants a change. Migraines, headaches, asthma, eczema, digestive disorders, insomnia, depression……the list is vast. We need to pay attention to these signals that indicate “danger ahead”, for we ignore them at our peril and then suddenly we have a bigger problem on our hands. We would never ignore a warning triangle on the highway, so why are we so prone to ignoring our own selves? After all it is far better to break gently, than be forced into an emergency stop.
In part I believe it is because it fits our cultural profile to take a pride in overcoming our body’s messages. In England I grew up with the expression “soldier on” and it was a source of great pride to keep going in the face of all the odds. The Black knight in Monty Python illustrates this trait better than most. He has lost both arms on the battlefield and fighting on, while wielding his sword in his teeth, he utters the immortal words,“It’s only a flesh wound”. Indeed we actively cultivate and celebrate such warrior-like behavior in our society, while often understanding its absurdity.
Now, I’m not about to say we should give up the warrior in us. Indeed we need him to be successful. But what I am saying is that we must honor ourselves in a way that makes us strong, effective and healthy human beings who can make a profound and important difference to the world. If we’re not in good shape then we can become vulnerable in many ways. In Hard Day’s Night, the guy has put himself in a very precarious position in his most important relationship, by caring more about what he can bring home to his woman than about his own wellbeing. On the face of it, this may look selfless but in the end such behavior can tip into the unhealthy states of martyrdom and victimization.
“Finding the work you love, loving the work you find” is a phrase long coined by the recruitment business. In this frantic post-modern world this has become an even more pressing matter.
So what can we do?
Many of us find ourselves in situations that, for many reasons, cannot be radically altered right now. We have the mortgage, the 401(k), the school fees, or the family business to run. Here the warrior needs some practical assistance to keep him atop his horse:-
1. Make a pact with your spirit that you know what the true situation is, and that you will make a big effort to do all in your power to make life more tolerable. Acknowledging the truth of things is a vital first step.
2. Make a comprehensive list of things that you like about your work and another list of things you would change if you could. There are many considerations here: colleagues, environment, remuneration, content, successes, disappointments, including the all-important question - does the work actually “matter” to you?
3. The next step is often a very hard one to take. Ask for help! It’s a strange thing, but no one knows what you need until you ask. How do you hope to have your dreams realized if no one knows what they are? Believe me, as an Anglo Saxon this is a very hard thing to put into practice and my culture is not alone in this. We have the idea we should be able to do it all ourselves, and if we can’t we’re falling short. Sound familiar?
4. Once you ask, you allow amazing things to happen! It maybe more flexible working hours, a raise, different office, a change in responsibility, etc. If you are a valued member of the team, then chances are you will create an improvement if you ask for it, and often this helps a business to be more dynamic because nothing ever stays the same. Things are always changing and, these days, often at a rapid pace. Challenging the status quo can be a good thing for everyone. I have a friend who had wanted a pay rise for a couple of years, rather than ask for it, she looked for, and was offered, another job. When she handed her notice in, she was offered a promotion and more money, if she would stay. She had no idea that they appreciated her at all and they had no idea she was unhappy. She had spent two years in this uncomfortable place getting more and more resentful.
5. Make your place at work, as comfortable as possible. Move things around in your work environment, add things from your life outside of work, like art and photographs that make you feel happy. Take a stretch break every hour and always eat lunch – and never at your desk. Eat whole and nourishing foods as these lead to whole and expansive thoughts. Even if it’s only for half-an-hour – take a break and try and get outside. The body craves fresh air, sunshine and movement.
6. Where ever possible align yourself with co-workers that you like and who inspire you. Try to keep contact to a minimum with those who are negative and bring you down. Feeling part of a team and experiencing camaraderie is essential to wellbeing. In Hard Day’s Night this is the feeling he gets when he says, “when I get home to you I’ll find the things that you do will make me feel alright”.
7. Work out when “enough is enough”. We are submerged in a culture of growth, growth and more growth. We must examine our actions carefully and learn to mark our boundaries with care. Learn to check in with ourselves (we have emotions for a reason after all) and to get to know when it’s ok to say “no” and when it is important to say “yes”. We must look at our default settings closely, as we often need to adjust a lifetime of habits.
8. Do your best not to blame your situation. Rather try and learn from your feelings about it. What does it say about you? Use it as a learning process and then you will not succumb to becoming The Victim or The Martyr in the mix. This puts you back on your horse and in control of the situation in a way that is very empowering.
9. Finally, remember these Universal Truths, “What you put in, you get out”. “What you pay attention to, you attract more of”. Even if you are in a bad spot, being warm and kind and open will ALWAYS help no matter how hard the circumstance. Try and remember what a kind word does for you, and then you’ll be reminded of what it can do for others. Kindness always has a ripple effect as it fans out from the source like a pebble thrown in a lake.
If you are in a position to change your job but you have no idea what to do, here are a few tips to help you find the work you love (and they worked for me!):
1. Look to your childhood and make a comprehensive list of the things that you loved to do. This is a way to access the “true” you. The “you” that spontaneously did things, long before “real life” intervened.
2. Take a close look at your hobbies, interests and what you read and seek out naturally.
3. Try and remember the last project you worked on where you felt excited, alive and totally stimulated.
4. Look at your present job and make a note of the things that work for you and the things that don’t.
5. Then ask yourself the question, “Which one of the above activities would I spend the next 8 hours doing, if I could?”
6. Make a list of all the jobs you can think of that match these activities. Even if this leads you to an impractical place, try and incorporate more of these things into your life with hobbies, clubs, societies, etc. Try creating a group of like-minded friends and try some of your ideas out together to see if they hold up.
Above all, whatever the circumstance, be brave and pro-active in all you do. It’s your life and you have to do it everyday. No one can do it for you, but you. If we remember that everything is interconnected, then it helps us to grasp the point that if we are leading the best lives we can, rather than this being a selfish thing to do – it is rather a self-less thing, as it in turns makes the world a better place and helps make the “hard day’s night” a lighter load.